What is a PA (Physician Assistant)? | MinuteClinic
What Is a PA (Physician Associate or Physician Assistant)?
What is the definition of a PA?
“PA” is a shorter way to say “physician assistant” or “physician associate.” Both terms identify health care professionals who have a license to practice medicine under a collaborative arrangement with physicians. However, the AAPA (American Academy of PAs) prefers “physician associate.” Not everyone uses this term, but the AAPA is working to make it the official meaning of PA.
How can PAs help me?
PAs are licensed health care professionals. Most PAs have received training in accredited programs that align with the procedures all physicians must learn (the medical model). Nationally certified PAs can do many of the same things a standard physician can do, including:
- Administering physical examinations, vaccinations and health screenings
- Diagnosing and treating common injuries, illnesses and skin conditions
- Writing medically appropriate prescriptions
What are the benefits of seeing a PA?
PAs, along with nurse practitioners (NPs), can save you time when you want to address a health concern. It’s not always easy to secure an appointment with your primary care physician. It can often take days, even weeks, to see a physician. A shortage of physicians in the United States is one reason for this, but PAs and NPs aren’t as affected by these conditions. That means it’s typically easier to see a health care provider at walk-in clinics that staff PAs and NPs, like MinuteClinic®.
PAs can also provide many of the same services that standard physicians perform. Visiting a PA gives you access to high-quality medical care.
And seeing a PA at MinuteClinic comes with extra benefits. MinuteClinic locations are open evenings and weekends for care at your convenience. You’ll also find more than 125 health services at affordable prices, with or without insurance. PAs offer convenient, professional care when you need it. And MinuteClinic can make your visit more convenient—all at reasonable prices.
Do PAs and MDs have similar training?
Both health care professions require education beyond a 4-year undergraduate degree. The most striking difference between a PA and an MD (Doctor of Medicine) is the time they spend in specialized training. MDs must complete a residency program, and it can take 11 years (or more) to become a full physician.
PAs do not have to complete an internship or residency to receive certification. However, they do need to earn a master's degree from an accredited PA training program. They also need to demonstrate medical proficiency while working in a clinic or hospital. Most PA certification programs take around 27 months (2 to 3 years) to complete.
Can a MinuteClinic PA renew my prescription?
That depends on the type of prescription you have. MinuteClinic offers a one-time medication renewal service that covers up to a 90-day supply of many medications. But not every type of prescription qualifies for renewal. Pain medications, prescriptions with refills remaining and medications for migraines are just some of the prescriptions that MinuteClinic providers cannot renew. However, your MinuteClinic PA may be able to authorize a refill for:
- Birth control
- Blood pressure medication
- Cholesterol-lowering drugs
- Diabetic medication or insulin
After reviewing your medical history, your provider will check your prescription against a list of pre-approved medications. To verify your prescription, you may have to provide additional information. This could include your prescription bottle, contact information for your primary care provider or the name of the pharmacy where you last filled your prescription.
What are the limitations of a PA’s role?
PAs work in all medical specialties under a collaborative arrangement with physicians. While there are many services PAs can provide, there are several they cannot. The rules that determine what a PA can or cannot do vary by state. But in most cases, PAs cannot care for patients outside of a clinic or hospital setting, open their own practice or perform surgery.